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THE    CHINESE    PEOPLE                   3!

Six Dynasties, from Eastern Chin to the unification of China
under Sui, during which North China was overrun with
barbaric conquerors, and the period of northern invasion in the
second cycle, from the Southern Sung Dynasty to the Mongol
Dynasty inclusive, seem to have corresponded with periods of
effeminacy of living and decadence of literary style, the first
period noted for its artificial and flowery ssuliu euphuistic prose,
and the second for its effeminate sentimental poetry. One
observes, in fact, not a paucity but an over-abundance of
words, played out to their finest nuances, with no more the
smell of the soil, but the decadent, cultivated, super-refined
flavour of court perfume. The Chinese showed a certain
fin-de-sticle delight in the sounds of words, and an extreme
refinement in literary and artistic criticism, and in aristocratic
habits of living.

For it was in these periods that painting and calligraphy
flourished, and aristocratic families rose and established them-
selves to carry on the artistic tradition. Chinese literary
criticism first became conscious of itself in the Six Dynasties,
and Wang Hsichih, the first and greatest calligraphist, who was
born of a great aristocratic family, lived in this period. Political
weakness and disgrace somehow coincided with artistic
refinement, and southern China was ruled in these periods by
kings who could not keep their thrones secure but could write
exquisite verse. Such ruler-poets were Liang Wuti, Nant'ang
Houchu, and Ch'en Houchu, all of them kings of extremely
short-lived dynasties and writers of tender love lyrics. The
Emperor Huichung of the Southern Sung Dynasty was also
a noted painter.

Yet it was in these periods that the germ for the racial
revival was laid. For the northern conquerors remained
conquerors only in official power, the substrata remaining
Chinese. The great Northern Wei Dynasty, whose rulers were
of the Sienpei race, not only adopted Chinese culture but also
freely intermarried with the Chinese. So were the so-called
Kin (Manchu) kingdoms in the Sung Dynasty largely Chinese.
A fermenting process was at work. Even culturally, these
periods were periods of penetration of foreign influence,
notably that of Buddhism and Indian sculpture in the end of